The consequences of increasing neoliberal authoritarianism on civic life, human rights, politics, media and academia in Turkey during the two-decade rule of its president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will be the focus of a panel discussion presented by Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Muslim and Arab Worlds.

“Interrogating Authoritarianism in the Era of Post-Truth and Populist Leaders: Lessons from Turkey,” co-sponsored by an Intellectual Life Grant and Academics for Peace North America network, is set for 9 a.m. Friday, May 7.

“Strong leaders offer a sense of security among the populace,” said Ece Algan, CSUSB professor of communication studies and moderator of the panel discussion. “In the post-truth era, where social media makes it easier for us to find and share stories and news that reaffirm our beliefs, some leaders take advantage of this. Not only do they use a variety of media manipulation strategies, but they also develop policies to erode and undermine democratic institutions so they can gain more power.”

Americans saw that play out under the presidency of Donald Trump, Algan said, and it continues under the leadership of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Narendra Modi in India, and Erdoğan in Turkey.

“While there are stark differences among these countries and their populist leaders, there are also important similarities that can help us understand authoritarianism today,” she said. “By taking a close look at contemporary Turkey, this panel aims to do just that.” 

Panelists are:

  • Melehat Kutun, an Einstein Fellow at Humboldt University, Berlin. She will speak to the role that the Turkish state played in institutionalizing the new neoliberal form while examining the current neoliberal authoritarianism in a historical and relational context. 
  • Naif Bezwan, a senior researcher at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights, Department of Constitutional and Administrative Law at the University of Vienna, and an Honorary Senior Research Associate, Department of Political Science, UCL London. He will discuss Turkey’s transformation from a “model country” or “rising democracy” into a polity that is almost universally characterized as an authoritarian regime. 
  • Bermal Aydın, a communication studies scholar who completed her Ph.D. at Galatasaray University. She will discuss the relationship between authoritarian neoliberalism and politically motivated prevarication of journalistic and academic lives.
  • Tezcan Durna, editor-in-chief of the Uğur Mumcu Investigative Journalism Foundation. He will examine how Erdoğan’s stretching and redefining the meaning of the freedom of speech and of the press functions as a tool to silence oppositional media.

For more information on the program, contact Ece Algan at

CSMAW event flier for May 7.